Talk to the Hand: Live in Michigan Review
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If you can’t already tell from the band’s name, it only takes a quick listen to one of their songs to figure out that the guys from Barenaked Ladies have a pretty crazy sense of humor—and that makes for a memorably wacky live experience. That’s a fact that I know from personal experience. When I first saw them live, in my college’s auditorium, I didn’t have a lot of experience with their music—just a few listens to their two CDs, which I’d borrowed from one of my numerous Canadian pals. But I was totally blown away by their stage show, which featured everything from tricycles to flying pasta. A few years later, I saw them again—this time in a massive arena—and I was able to share the same outrageous experience with an unsuspecting friend.

Since they’re quite possibly one of the most entertaining live bands around, it’s only natural that Barenaked Ladies (who, just for the record, all appear to be male—and they always wear clothes on stage) would release a live DVD along with their latest live album. In fact, it makes me wonder what took them so long. Because while the songs sound great live (and they always have plenty of little surprising to mess up fans who are trying to sing along), you just can’t understand the whole experience unless you can actually see it for yourself.

Filmed/recorded at Pine Knob amphitheater in Clarkston, Michigan, Talk to the Hand contains a whole bunch of the old favorites that fans already know by heart—like “If I Had $1000000,” “One Week,” and “Pinch Me”—as well as a number of tracks from more recent albums. But listening to the CD is like getting two CDs in one: a concert CD and a comedy CD. As the guys perform, they take time out to berate a front-row concertgoer who’s talking on her cell phone. And a man in the audience prompts them to break out into an improvised song about “old school maracas.”

Pop in the DVD, and you can see the whole thing up close and personal. You can see the woman with her phone—and you can try to figure out what, exactly, the maracas guy has in his hands. Except for the moments when singer Steven Page sets aside his guitar and takes to high-kicking across the stage—and the fabulously choreographed “Angry People”—this is, admittedly, a rather tame show compared to those I’ve seen. There aren’t any tricycles—and the flying pasta is kept to a minimum. But the band’s spectacular chemistry—not to mention dynamic stage presence—still enhances the whole experience. It’s great to hear them singing an acoustic version of “Be My Yoko Ono,” but it’s even better to see the five band members huddled around a single microphone as they perform in front of a crowd filled with everyone from teenagers to middle-agers. And you’ll get to know the band even better through the special features—especially the backstage interviews, in which the guys talk about crazy things that have happened while they were touring.

If you’ve never seen this energetic, fun-loving band live, the band’s live DVD may not capture all the fun, but it’s a start. So until you can get yourself tickets to see them in person, check out the CD/DVD combo.

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